Keywords: integrated assessment, risk communication, discourse, stakeholder participation, stakeholders, environmental health risks, systemic risk, risk assessment, governance
Risk communication and stakeholder participation in the governance of systemic environmental health risks
Achieving effective stakeholder participation in discourses about modern, systemic risks is difficult. Risks and policies to control them stimulate behavioural changes in society, so stakeholdership evolves as events play out, and defining stakeholders requires the ability to model the adaptive responses involved. Engaging stakeholders is also problematic because of inherent barriers of time, resources and expertise, as well as the scale and complexity of the risks and the large numbers of people involved. Direct participation of stakeholders in risk discourses is therefore limited, and most participation has to be by proxy. Established mechanisms of representation tend to favour more powerful and articulate stakeholders, so new methods to enable participation by proxy (e.g., through use of the internet) need to be developed. Above all, however, the experts and professionals involved in risk assessment and management need to build greater empathy with the wider body of stakeholders on whose behalf they act.